Although every woman gets a period – few give much thought to how the traditional menstrual products impact our environment. We want to change that!
It is estimated that the average woman will discard roughly 250-300 pounds of period products in her lifetime. This can include pads, tampon applicators, and plugs – all of which are not eco-friendly and can sit in landfills. While this overall waste is a small amount of all waste that we make – it should still be something we consider in our daily lives.
Obviously we need to use these products – but there are now so many options that are more environmentally friendly and allow you to make an impact!
Types of Eco-Friendly Period Product Options
If you are like me you are not a fan of insertion types of options like tampons or cups and prefer the pad option then period underwear are a great sustainable period product option.
These panties fit like regular underwear and can come in several styles like normal underwear – bikini, brief etc. But they also come with a an extra absorbent lining that is leak proof and will keep you dry.
Aisle period panties used to go by the name Lunapads – but they rebranded and are one of the leaders in the industry. They have been around since 1993 and have amazing reviews and customers seem to really love the products.
No Applicator Tampons
About two years ago, I became a big fan of the reusable Diva Cup, a sort-of ‘vessel’ that catches your flow, which you empty and then reinsert during your period. At the time I was hooked on it. It was totally working for me, and I was thrilled that I was able to eliminate yet another category of disposable products from my life. (Comments online are awesomely filled with TMI talk, just to warn you, but some folks have some, ahem, insertion issues to work out.) Well, about five or six months later I got a Mirena IUD, which has virtually eliminated my period, so I no longer use any type of feminine hygiene. But I’ve been wondering whether anyone has successfully been using reusables for the long term?
To refresh, there are a few reusable options. You’ve got your reusable menstrual cups, like the Diva Cup made from silicone, and The Keeper made from natural rubber (they also make a silicone version for women allergic to latex). Then there are the reusable cloth pads that you wash and wear, like Glad Rags, Lunapads and homemade varieties (or make your own). I would think that cloth diaper users would find this an easy switch. Grist did a comparison of various types of pads that might be helpful. There are also sea sponge tampons, made from, yes, sea sponges. While these personally have no appeal for me, they seem to work just fine for some.
There’s also this whole category of disposable menstrual products made by companies like Seventh Generation and Natracare that are unbleached, made with less plastic, made with plant materials, etc. While they are still disposable, if you are not ready to try reusables then I think this is a good way to go (though I haven’t actually tried any so I can’t vouch for effectiveness). Eliminating these nasty ingredients from the manufacturing process (and keeping them away from your tender bits) can only be a positive. However, you should always take ‘biodegradable’ claims with a hefty dose of eye-rolling.
If you plan to compost your feminine hygiene in your backyard (and I can offer NO insight here!) then the claims apply to you! But in a modern landfill, nothing is breaking down, okay? No air and water is getting in to all of these ‘biodegradable’ products — they are just hanging out with all of the other garbage, taking up space. If your goal is to reduce waste and the harmful emissions related to the production and transport of disposable products, then this is NOT your category of products.
So what are you using, and how long have you been at it? Have you tried and given up on any? Let’s share, ladies.
(And I know that the Mirena does not appeal to everyone because 1) it releases a small amount of hormones into your uterus, and 2) it can be prohibitively expensive if your insurance won’t cover it. It’s a personal choice, my insurance covered it 100% and I love it.)
More About the Diva Cup
The Diva Cup is a small, silicone rubber vessel that you insert, and it catches your flow. You empty it out once or twice a day, rinse and reinsert. It is eco-friendly because you aren’t tossing anything into the garbage AND it is reusable, so no manufacturing waste is being generated to create new products to replace old (disposable) products. But does it work? The first day I tried it, it was really uncomfortable. I thought there was no way this was going to work for me. The second day I tried was golden. No discomfort and I was hardly aware of it at all. No leakage or spillage. It worked exactly like it was supposed to, and I wore it day and night. If you aren’t terribly comfortable with your body, the insertion could take a little getting used to. But the instructions provided are really helpful, and you just need to give yourself time to learn how it works.
I bought the Diva Wash plant-based cleanser, too, to keep it all spic and span. They also provide a handy little storage bag AND a Diva Cup lapel pin (!!!) which I guess helps you to identify other members of this sacred society, so you can share tips and, er, heck I don’t know. Why would a company that manufactures an eco-friendly product waste resources to create something that no sane woman is going to wear? C’mon. Tacky jewelry aside, I think my tampon-buying days are over. I hope it continues to work, because it sure does feel good to keep that disposable stuff out of the waste stream. Anyone else want to bare their soul with a Diva story?